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L'uomo che guardava passare i treni by…

L'uomo che guardava passare i treni (original 1938; edition 2002)

by Georges Simenon, Paola Zallio Messori

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6791614,070 (3.71)24
Title:L'uomo che guardava passare i treni
Authors:Georges Simenon
Other authors:Paola Zallio Messori
Info:Roma, Gruppo editoriale L'Espresso-Divisione la Repubblica, c2002

Work details

The Man Who Watched Trains Go By by Georges Simenon (1938)

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English (9)  Italian (3)  Spanish (2)  Portuguese (1)  Catalan (1)  All (16)
Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
The novel ends with the words, 'there isn't any truth' and that and the mind of a man who is suffering from mental ill health is what the novel hangs around. The story follows Kees Popinga, a clerk with a shipping company in the Netherlands. We meet him just before Christmas when this unassuming man, who delights in small acts of defiance, takes a train to Amsterdam and visits a sex worker who he murders. He then moves on to Paris and the novel continues closely following him as he walks and walks around the city. The novel is interesting and dramatic; the reader is told how Popinga's mind is working and in this way we are led to understand what he is going through. ( )
2 vote Tifi | May 25, 2016 |
Apparently Simenon is another prolific french writer who wrote mass entertainment like Dumas. I found the book to be cute enough but not life changing in any way. Didn't get as much out of it as the introduction suggested I should :). Worth reading a relic of the period, to give a sense of what people were thinking/reading...I guess...
  ahovde01 | Sep 6, 2015 |
THE MAN WHO WATCHED THE TRAINS GO BY is one of Simenon's "psychological novels". At first Kees Popinga seems absolutely normal but something snaps when he finds out that his boss is going to fake suicide and that the company he works for is going under, taking his life savings with it. It now seems that he has worked all his life for nothing and he feels released to explore his "other self". There have been signs of mental inbalance that have emerged before, but they have been kept tightly reined in by other people's expectations, and Popinga's own concepts of right and wrong.

Now the inhibitions have gone and he deserts his family and takes himself to Amsterdam to visit a woman of ill-repute, Pamela, who dies as a result of his visit. From there Popinga goes to Paris where he becomes involved in a car heist and is constantly preoccupied with reports about himself in the newspapers.

This is not a Maigret novel although the policeman in charge of looking for Popinga is Superintendent Lucas who of course in the Maigret novels is Maigret's lieutenant. Popinga wants newspaper readers to have an accurate version of his achievements and so he writes to newspaper editors and then to Lucas himself to correct details that he thinks have been inaccurately reported. He is insulted when a French professor of psychiatry says he is paranoic, although he is not quite sure what that means.

As the plot progresses Popinga becomes increasingly detached from normality, not really understanding the hole he is digging for himself. ( )
1 vote smik | Jan 8, 2015 |
This was diverting, though not my favorite of the six or so Simenons I have read so far, all on the New York Review Books imprint. Kees Popinga, a buttoned down manager of a ships chandlery in Holland, goes on a bit of a rampage after his boss tells him that he has run the business into the ground. This is the same business, the watchword for rectitude and probity in the little port town in which it operates, into which Kees has invested every cent of his savings. Kees subsequently (inadvertently?) kills a hooker by the name of Pamela whom he has lusted after for years when, bereft of his illusions, she laughs at him. Then he goes to Paris and becomes a subject for the tabloids ("Sex Fiend") as he remains at large for several weeks. However, once the newspapers lose interest and relegate his story to inner pages, he starts to write letters to the editor in which he pathetically tries to keep the thrill alive; his ostensible motive being to explain himself since they "have him all wrong." The book is troubled early on, in my view, by some hardboiled-sounding dialog, generally something the titles I've read are free of. I felt it was very good but lacking in action, and by contrast, too heavy on the ruminations of its protagonist, mostly rendered as free indirect speech. My favorite NYRB Simenons so far have been Dirty Snow and Strangers In The House. The latter being, in my opinion, dazzling on a sentence by sentence basis. Recommended with reservations. ( )
1 vote William345 | Jun 11, 2014 |

While discussing Black Swan with friends the other day, I realized this novel has a similarity or two with Darren Aronofsky movies. Remember those movies ( Requiem for a Dream, Pi, The Wrestler, Black Swan ) where we have one or more characters going on with their lives when somehow things begin spiraling out of control. And how!. The Man Who Watched Trains Go By has a similar premise, except the transition in the protagonist's life is relatively more sudden. He steps around a corner from where there is no turning back.

Kees Popinga, the protagonist, has always done what is expected of him by the society, his family and his employer. He has built a stable and seemingly content life for himself. However, while trying too hard to be perfect, he has lost himself somewhere, forgotten who he really was and how he really wishes to live. He is tired and bored of being himself. He is bogged down by the monotony of his life, though he doesn't yet realize as much. One fateful night, his predictable life takes an unexpected turn and Popinga breaks down. He is now no longer the man who always used to watch trains go by while staying put, but hops on a train himself to start afresh and live on his own terms. And the reader accompanies him on his existential journey.

Simenon writes well. He never goes too deep into Popinga's psychology, but lets us understand his psyche by telling a lot of the story from Popinga's point-of-view. Popinga gets himself into a cat-and-mouse game with the police. He goes about playing this game objectively, thinking and planning out every move he makes. While Popinga takes pride in being so clear-headed and smart, the reader can only feel sorry for the poor fellow's foolishness. Whatever you feel about his actions, you can't help feeling pity for him. You want to grab him by the shoulders and shake some sense into his head. Like those times when you find yourself yelling at someone on your TV screen.
Simenon also sprinkles the plot with suspense which adds another interesting dimension to the story.

There are sure to be many Popingas in the world around us who are wearied of their stressful lives and wish to breathe free. ( )
1 vote HearTheWindSing | Mar 31, 2013 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Simenon, Georgesprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Zallio Messori, PaolaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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As far as Kees Popinga was concerned, it cannot be denied that at eight that evening there was still time, his destiny still hung in the balance.
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Hardworking Dutch family man Kees Popinga loses his money when the shipping firm he works for collapses. Something snaps and from the shell of a modern citizen emerges a calculating paranoiac, capable of random acts of violence - even murder.

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